Central Arkansas Christian’s baseball Mustangs recovered from their 7-4A conference opening loss to Arkansas Baptist last week with a 9-2 non-conference win over Carlisle.
Ryan Stauder’s team improved to 6-6 overall, and the Mustangs seemed to put their disappointment behind them.
"It was a good team win, a good bounce-back win," Stauder said. "Carlisle is one of the better teams in (Class) 2A; they were solid. We had a good pitching performance from Jack Partlow.
"Obviously, it’s not as important as the conference game we played, but we were really good on defense. They were making most of the plays, and they also made some extraordinary plays — some of our outfielders were making diving catches and helping our pitchers, doing stuff that we haven’t done much of lately.
"We’ve been too timid, but I thought our energy was better for Carlisle. I hope we used Arkansas Baptist as a wake-up call."
At the plate, Partlow was one-for-four with three RBIs. Jack Thomas went two-for-two with a double, an RBI and a couple of walks.
"We scored on some passed balls and a couple of errors," Stauder said. "Jack (Partlow) went six innings and we gave up two runs — one earned — and five hits. He walked a few as well, but he got himself out of trouble."
The Mustangs are in the midst of what was supposed to be a busy week but the home game against Arkadelphia, the defending Class 4A state champion, on Monday, was rained out.
Also pushed back because of the weather was a matchup against Lonoke for a non-conference game Tuesday.
CAC will resume conference play Friday at Bauxite, step out of conference play at North Little Rock on Saturday, return to 7-4A play at Malvern on Monday, April 14 and step out of conference again against Abundant Life on Tuesday, April 15.
Last year, CAC beat Arkadelphia during the regular season and run-ruled the Badgers in the district tournament final. However, the Badgers prevailed in the regional final and the state semifinals en route to the first baseball state title in school history.
"They pretty much return everybody," Stauder said of the 2014 Badgers. "They’ve been playing really well, which is not surprising. They’re loaded with seniors, but they’ve got a lot of young guys contributing, too. Arguably, their best pitcher was a freshman last year."
The Mustangs survived Bauxite two weeks ago in the Mayflower Invitational, 8-7, but Stauder said he didn’t expect a similar high-scoring game this time.
"Neither team played real well," he said. "We both made some errors. Neither of us threw our No. 1 pitcher. But they have a kid, Ben Madison, who throws in the mid- to-upper 80s, and if he’s on, they’re tough to beat. This time, whoever gets three or four runs should win."
North Little Rock provides an interesting rivalry game every year.
"They’re a lot bigger than us, but the kids have played with and against a lot of those guys," Stauder said. "You see familiar faces. The step up in competition helps prepare you for conference play and to see better pitching."
Malvern was young last year, he said, but the Leopards won their conference opener.
"Their ace will still be there; they’re going to be junior- and senior-heavy like most of our conference, unlike us," Stauder said. "The key for us if we’re able to play some defense.
"After Arkadelphia, a lot of these other teams are key. These aren’t must-wins, but they’re games we need to find ways to win if we want to get past the district tournament."